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December 28, 2004
Minnesota Media Both Tacky And Clueless

A business complex exploded in nearby Ramsey today, killing at least two people and critically injuring a third. A gas buildup apparently caused the blast, which destroyed the building:

A gas leak was believed to have set off the explosion about 9:45 a.m., leveling the single-story structure along Hwy. 10 in the city of Ramsey, said Capt. Bob Aldrich of the Anoka County Sheriff's Office.

However, Aldrich said more investigation was needed to confirm the cause. Investigators planned to talk to a man who had pulled up to the building just as it exploded. The man's car was damaged, but he was said to be uninjured.

The explosion will require more investigation, but the odor of natural gas at the scene makes firefighters pretty confident that a gas leak is the culprit.

However, that's not why I'm posting about this. Our local media swarmed over the site, quite literally, as a CQ reader e-mailed me earlier this afternoon:

As you have undoubtedly heard about by now, a small business building in Ramsey on highway 10 exploded today, killing at least 2 with possibly others still missing. As an emergency services volunteer in Hennepin County, I was put on standby and had my scanner running so I could listen to the rescue and recovery operation. I also tuned into the local media coverage of the incident while I waited to see if my services would be needed.

A little while after dogs were brought in to assist in the search, rescue crews appeared to have located something. The news media observed that tarps were being raised and one station admitted it was probably because of their presence overhead (one station tried to suggest other possible reasons for the tarps initially but the tarp path to the ambulance left little doubt as to the tarp's function). While recognizing the tarps were in place to provide privacy and dignity to the remains being removed from the blast site, no effort was made by the news media to actually provide privacy that was being sought.

On my radio, I heard a request being made by the fire command to have all news media choppers clear the air and provide a 5 mile radius around the scene. The Anoka County dispatcher contacted each news organization and relayed the request.

Nobody moved.

The fire commander, clearly irritated, asked that the FAA be contacted and that the radius should be expanded to 10 miles.

Nobody moved.

At one point the fire commander said all the helicopters, except channel 11 [the local NBC affiliate -- CE] had backed off but then ended his transmission by saying another helicopter was moving into the area again. Even as the helicopters were backing off, news crews on the ground using towers on their news vans zoomed in on the ambulance looking for any angle that would sneak past the privacy guards in place.

Remember this when the media spouts off about supporting local responders in the war on terror instead of military action. The fire captain wanted the area cleared to maintain at least a few moments of dignity for the victims of the blast, and the various Twin Cities news organizations treated it like a Hollywood wedding. The truth is that the media only gives a damn about local responders when it suits their political purposes; otherwise, the media routinely ignore them. Everyone involved in this should be ashamed of themselves.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 28, 2004 4:00 PM

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